I was awakened by the sound of thunder. I fell asleep on my mother’s bed, holding the diary. I rubbed my sleepy eyes and looked at the watch. It was half past midnight. I yawned and stretched my body a bit. I haven’t perform the Isya’ prayer yet. I stared at the blue leathered diary. I was able to discover my mother’s childhood in it. Mother never mentioned about her childhood past to me or my other two siblings. Only father told us about his adventurous childhood past.
I learned a little bit about my biological grandparents. I can’t believe they abandoned my mother just because she wasn’t as smart as her brother and her sister. Wait. Aunt Nazatul is mother’s sister, her true sister. She’s one of the people whom my mother trust most besides Uncle Shah’s family. But in this diary, mother said that she hated her real family, which means that she hated Aunt Nazatul too.
I needed to ask Aunt Nazatul about this. I slowly put the diary into the drawer. I wanted to read the second diary later on. I went to the bathroom and washed my face and took a wudhu’. Then, I went to my own room to perform Isya’ prayer.
After praying, I thought about mother’s life for a while. She was abandoned and she lived with her aunt, whom I called Granny because I thought it was my biological Granny. She passed away years ago, when I was in secondary school. Mother was very upset after her death. It took nearly a year to regain mother’s will back. And thanks to father who always supported her.
Did father know about mother’s past? The question was lingering in my mind. I sighed and folded the sejadah. I needed to hit the sack. It was late but fortunately tomorrow is Sunday so I could read the diary more. But I really need to ask Aunt Nazatul about mother. She’s the one who knew everything about mother’s past.
* * *
Middle June, 1975.
Kalsom filled the metal stacked containers with rice and gravy and some vegetables for her Ayah. She did the cooking with her cousin, Merdu. It was a mundane weekend but as usual, Kalsom loved weekend. She usually went to the paddy-field and helped her aunt and uncle. She enjoyed working on the field with her neighbours and her cousins. For her, they were her new family now.
Merdu stacked the containers and made sure that the gravy wouldn’t spill. Kalsom put the water flasks in the rattan basket. Both of them were ready to go to the paddy-field. They rode an old bicycle; Kalsom cycled while Merdu sat at the back, holding the stacked containers. They rode along the road while sang a song that they used to sing every time they rode bicycle.
They reached the paddy-field few minutes later. Kalsom carefully leant the bicycle to the tree and walked to where her Ummi and Ayah were waiting under the small hut. Merdu brought the stacked containers to the hut and they un-stacked them. Karamah, Merdu’s mother, served the plate while Malik, Merdu’s father called for his sons who were still working on the field.
Malik has 6 children, including Kalsom. Although Kalsom was his niece but he treated her just like his own daughter. Both he and Karamah loved Kalsom very much because Kalsom never complained living in poor family. In fact, Kalsom loved living here rather than the place that used to be her house.
Merdu’s brothers, Shah, Raheem and Subhi joined them eating lunch under the hut. Karamah and Kalsom served the food. Malik recited the du’a before eating. Kalsom watched his father eat his food. She calmly anticipated for his comments. Kalsom cooked the groovy today and she didn’t know whether the gravy was good or not even though Merdu told her umpteenth times that the gravy was delicious.
Kalsom watched her father munched the rice. She didn’t touch hers yet. Malik realized that Kalsom was watching her. He smiled and licked his finger.
“This one is delicious than usual,” he said.
Kalsom smiled widely. She knew that her father loved the gravy. She put a lot of effort to make the delicious gravy. All thanks to Karamah and Merdu who taught Kalsom to improve her cooking.
“You’re right, Ayah. It is delicious,” praised Raheem with a smile and put another mouthful of rice inside his mouth.
Besides Merdu, Raheem also close to Kalsom.
I am so happy today because Ayah praised my gravy this afternoon. Everybody said it was delicious! But I still cannot beat Mak’s cooking. She’s the best cook in the world! Abang Shah also said that I need to learn a lot from Mak if I want to be a great cook just like her. Abang Shah rarely talks to me but I know he’s a good brother. He’s not like Abang Heem, who likes to tease me and Merdu. Abang Heem just finish school and he works with Mak and Ayah and Abang Shah at the field. Merdu, Abang Subhi and I are still schooling.
I really missed Kak Yah. She’ll come back next month. She studies at the university which is far away from here. She’s very smart and got scholarship. Everyone is proud of her. I like to hear her stories about her university and her life there. Abang Shah is supposed to further his study too but he doesn’t want to. He wants us to be successful. He prefers helping Mak and Ayah at the field.
I know that Abang Shah sacrifices a lot for me. I still remember the day when I entered secondary school. He told Ayah that I need to have better education although the school is just a rural school. He dropped out from school that day. When I knew that news, I cried and cried until I felt that my tears dry. He comforted me and told me to promise him that I have to be a successful person.
He’s a nice eldest brother I ever have! Although he is very strict, but he loves all of us. He’s very protective especially towards us, the sisters.
Tomorrow is Sunday. I have to go to school. I need to sleep early because I want to help Mak to cook Nasi Lemak for breakfast and for selling. I love to sell Nasi Lemak on the way to school with Merdu.
Kalsom and Merdu went to school by walking. They carried a basket full of Nasi Lemak to be sold in the school canteen. Sometimes they did the extra work after school. The teachers were proud to have hardworking students like them and everyone in that school loved the Nasi Lemak.
The school was kind of small and there were only less than 100 students studied there. The buildings were made by wood and there were only three buildings – one for classes, one for teachers’ room and one for the office.
It was middle June so the weather is quite hot. Sometimes they brought extra rough papers to make a paper fan. Kalsom flapped her paper fans as she tried to concentrate what the teacher was teaching. It was Mathematics class and she was still weak in this subject. But she always asked the teacher is she didn’t understand.
But she still couldn’t get rid of her fear - the test and examination. If the teacher announced there will be a test on the next day, she couldn’t sleep. She felt miserable and a little bit depressed. She couldn’t forget the casualty that she faced a long time ago; the insult, the pain and the devastation.
Sometimes she had a nightmare that she could even imagine. The dark reminiscence of the past was still somewhere inside her mind. She slowly forgot about her own family who dumped her but she never forgot the pain that she had gone through.